Distinctiveness and Cohesion of Parties

Hermann Schmitt and Jacques Thomassen

in Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union

Published in print June 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296614
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600227 | DOI:
 Distinctiveness and Cohesion of Parties

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This chapter is the first of six on the question of political representation in the EU, and the first of four that put the five requirements of the Responsible Party Model (outlined in this chapter) to an empirical test. The questions investigated here are whether EU political parties are sufficiently distinct and cohesive to fulfil the partisan prerequisites of an effective system of political representation in the European Parliament. However, before this is done, a more formal description is given of the present structure of the EU party system, and an elaboration is presented of the partisan requirements of the Responsible Party Model of political representation. This model rests on the premises that government policy should be in line with the preferences of (a majority of) the electorate, that voters must have a choice between different policy proposals (position issues) offered by cohesive parties, and that voters have policy preferences and are assumed to vote for the party whose policy proposals they perceive to be closest to these preferences. The main part of the chapter uses data from the European Representation Study 1994 to test both the original Responsible Party Model and an alternative and more realistic variant based on weaker assumptions and inspired by the valence issue logic of Stokes and the issue salience theory of Budge and Farlie; in this alternative variant parties do not compete on specific policies (positions) but rather on the valence or salience of issues—effective representation is then no longer indicated by the congruence of policy preferences between party elites and party voters, but by the congruence of political agendas of representatives and represented.

Keywords: cohesiveness; distinctiveness; European Parliament; EU; issue salience theory; policy preferences; political agendas; political parties; political representation; position issues; Responsible Party Model; salience of issues; valence issue logic; valence issues

Chapter.  5445 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European Union

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